What are you looking at?
I feel a little sheepish. I’m holding a single-serving teapot, warm and heavy with tea, above my head peering at the manufacturer’s mark underneath. I can’t quite make it out, so I set the teapot back on the table and look at my questioner.
“I was trying to figure out who makes this teapot. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Dressed in a solid tee-shirt and jeans, the proprietor of the Red Stone Inn crosses the breakfast room to look at a teapot he’s seen a hundred times. Another customer looks at the same model on his table. They are waiting to see why the nondescript white china has caught my attention. I show him:
“Do you see? It’s the perfect pot because it has a hole just below the lip of the spout, so the tea doesn’t spill when you pour it.” I’ve already ascertained that it also has an interior strainer, making it suitable for loose tea. Then I tip the teapot and we watch tea strain into my cup, the tea that comes through the hole in the spout joining easily with the tea that flows over the spout, neither coming too fast nor too slow, such that the tea really pours.
“I never noticed that before.” The inn’s host, Asian with just a trace of an accent, had been sleepy the afternoon before when I checked in. This morning he is lively, chatty, circulating through the sunny breakfast room. “All this time, I never noticed.”
“Well, I’ve never seen anything like it,” I tell him, “so I was looking to see out who makes it. I’d like to buy one.”
“Probably hotel china company,” he says.
The Red Stone Inn in Dubuque, IA, is the first stop on my five-day walkabout. I’ve taken advantage of one of those rare collisions in time when the reason I was supposed to be away from home, and thus have covered childcare and teaching responsibilities for the week, has fallen through and I’ve decided it’s an invitation to get out of town. Home to many of Dubuque’s transient weeklong IBM employees, the Red Stone was once a grand mansion, now a charming Victorian inn with fourteen suites. Breakfast is included and I am, according to the proprietor, his one true guest.
I’ve made Dubuque my first stop so that I can take a yoga class at Twisted Root Yoga with the amazing Coleen. We overlapped in teacher training briefly—her dynamic energy has been calling me to practice ever since. Arriving Monday evening after kissing Ten and Thirteen goodbye, cleaning the studio bathrooms, and teaching my own classes, I am not disappointed by one minute on my mat with Coleen. Our entire practice is geared toward and culminates with headstand, followed by a blissful Savasana (final relaxation) and a peaceful twenty-minute seated practice.
I’m well rested and up in a timely fashion to take myself on to my next destination, Milwaukee, with a stop for another class in Madison. By the end of my sojourn, I will have refreshed my own practice taking five classes in four different studios, connected with some extraordinary teachers, and enjoyed the surprising jewel that is the city of Milwaukee, a mini-mighty good time by Lake Michigan. I’ll wend my way to Iowa City where I will teach a two-day Poses & Prose workshop, the impetus for being on the road in the first place, even if I’m taking rather a long route to arrive there.
I don’t yet know, sitting at breakfast in the Red Stone Inn, what delights await or that the whole tenor of my trip will wrap around the twin gifts of companionship from strangers and rediscovering my own inner stillness. But that last part is already starting to dawn on me, as I relish lingering over my tea at the same time I’m looking forward to gazing out of the windshield, nothing to do but drive.
The host spends a long time helping one of his businessmen make just the right cup of coffee to go. He’s the final IBM employee to leave and I’m alone, tipping my teapot over my cup for the last wash of tea. Again, I marvel at the perfectly engineered pot.
“You may have that one.” I look up to see the Red Stone’s host—and I’m assuming from the conversation he’s had with others at breakfast about painting and plantings, manager, perhaps even owner—watching me watch my tea. “I never noticed that before. You showed me something new. You should take it, like a present.”
I check my impulse to say that I couldn’t possibly. Receiving this gift graciously opens me to receiving all of the gifts of my trip—amazing classes, beautiful views, the delights of the century-old Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, conversations with surprising people, and the gift I learn to give myself, what my Asian host at the inn, if I may be so bold as to presume he is Chinese, might call Wu Wei, the art of not doing.
With gratitude, I carry the little pot away, tuck it safely among my things, and head off for the open road.
Ten days late for the new moon or a few days early for the full? Either way, apologies as this blog post refused to write itself and thus I worked at it in snippets around the topsy-turvy schedule of the summer. As always, thanks ever-so for reading! xoR